In advance of Election Day Nov. 7, Charlottesville Tomorrow has produced in-depth nonpartisan voter guides, featuring exclusive one-on-one interviews with all the candidates for the Charlottesville School Board and Charlottesville City Council. In advance of the election, we will also feature their responses to important questions about their qualifications, priorities, and key quality of life issues so that our citizens can compare candidates’ answers and make an informed choice.
Charlottesville Tomorrow’s 2017 Election Center website also features candidates in Albemarle County and links to the full written transcript and audio of these interviews.
All the following passages are verbatim excerpts from our interviews.
CHARLOTTESVILLE SCHOOL BOARD, FIRST IN A SERIES
Teacher compensation -- more money -- bottom line. But I realize that's just a piece to the overall budget, but there's no doubt in my mind as an observer and listener to board meetings [that there is a] desire to compensate our teachers well to support them, whether it be professional development or whatever types of supports they need. If I had a magic wand and could just increase their salaries across the board I’d definitely do it and I think most of board members would agree, if not all of them, to do that.
As far as performance measurements, I do believe there needs to be some type of accountability. I don't know that there is a perfect way to do that. I think we have some incredibly talented teachers and educators in our system. I feel like through the years there have been an awful lot of unfunded mandates which I know has to affect what they're able to do in a classroom setting. A lot of my best friends are teachers so I see what they do in the classroom and an after hours and all summer long, so I think we need to let them do their magic. But again as far as accountability, I feel like there's enough assessments that that go on and enough scores that are looked at as far as whether teachers are doing well, or for a certain classroom, and I think that's not just related to Standards of Learning types of scores but there's enough going on throughout the year and the administration they watch and they know who is struggling, so support to our teachers, we need to retain them.
Teachers in my mind are very special. They have to be the most committed individuals ever. They do not get combat pay — but the work that they do is not combative, but is extremely, extremely important. They are responsible for shaping the minds and lives of our future leaders and they are on the forefront every day. Money is important. Monetary compensation is extremely important and I think one of the things that we often lose sight of is people at a certain point want to earn more money and they see the route to earning more money in moving up in administration. But everyone that's an excellent teacher is not an [excellent] administrator.
And these are questions that I'm plagued with, and research that I need to do to see how do we compensate people. Does everyone get a five percent raise? Does everyone get a 10 percent raise? Are raises rotational? One subject area may get a raise one year and another subject area the next year. It is not to say that there's anyone that's devalued, but to give them the types of monies that they need, maybe it would have to be done on a rotational basis. If you did it on a merit basis, would that be equitable? Who would make those evaluations? How would we make sure that if I were the math instructor and there were five math instructors, but we gave out merit pay, that we were evaluating each of the five of us equitably in order that we see the money that we need to receive? So those are things that are very very important. But I think that they are hot bed issues all over the country — how to compensate our instructors, and also looking at teachers as professionals. You must be credentialed and you can't look at education as the last resort. “Oh well, I didn't get this job in corporate America, so I'll be a teacher.” No, we've got to value our teachers and make them feel that they are just as important as the CEOs and the star athletes and the actors and actresses and the entertainers — they are just as important.
I think I talked about a study that we have to study teachers’ compensation (*This information can be found in the Charlottesville Voter Guide, and Juandiego Wade's transcript and recorded interview). So I’m going to talk a little bit about performance measurements. It’s a difficult job, it’s a difficult job, so much is brought to the front door of the schools that we have to deal with as a school district, and we’re not shying away from that. We have to deal with abuse, hunger, poverty, and now [August 12th]. Everything is brought to the front door of the schools, and yet, we are putting more and more on our teachers and expect them to measure up to the SOLs and things in that. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t, but I want to think about that teacher, that they’re in the classroom, and I think that the state with the various guidelines and things, it’s almost 90 percent of their day is mandated. And so there’s very little that that teacher can do if they wanted to implement a special program — there is some flexibility, but there’s just not a whole lot. And so I think that we want to always look at that, we have various ways that we work with the teachers if that teacher is maybe having a problem or struggling, that we want to help that teacher. There’s various statistics out there that, you know, half of the teachers that come into this profession are out within five years — three years, I think. It’s a tough job. It’s a very tough job to do, and we want to do things to boost morale and things as much as possible.
We’re in a good shape here in the City of Charlottesville — all of our schools are accredited, we’re, relatively speaking, we’re well funded, we have great facilities, but we still come from a district where we have medium income could be in one census tract could be $17-18,000 and in another one could be $200,000. All of those students are coming to the same elementary school. They all come to the same schools, middle schools, and high schools. And we have to, you know, that teacher has to take that kid to come into that classroom that may have a vocabulary of 5,000 words, and one that might have a vocabulary of 50,000 words. We can’t say, “Okay, well you didn’t test well. You can’t come to the school.” We have to take them all in. And we’re doing great, we’re doing something great in this district. Our test scores are going up. We have three to four hundred people who pay to come to this district. So our staff and our teachers are doing something right because they have a product that people will pay outside the district to come in for, to be a part of.